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David's Commentaries

Matthew 17:2 ‘And He was transfigured before them; and His face did shine as the sun.’

This Week’s Focus Passage: Matthew 17:2 

‘And He was transfigured before them; and His face did shine as the sun.’

    The Transfiguration of Jesus, is recorded by each of the three evangelists, in their Gospel accounts, which have become denominated as ‘the Synoptic Gospels.’ Synoptic, in simple terms, merely means, as an encyclopedia informs us, when it has declared that, “The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories, often in a similar sequence and in similar, or sometimes, identical wording. They stand in contrast to John, whose content is largely distinct. The term synoptic comes via Latin from the Greek synopsis, i.e. ‘(a) seeing all together.’ synopsis, the sense of the word in English, the one specifically applies to these three Gospels, ‘of giving an account of the events from the same point of view or under the same general aspect,’ is a modern one.” It is interesting, in this understanding of ‘synoptic’ that only Matthew and Mark employ the word transfigured. Luke makes no use of it, whatever, but describes that which took place, in the following words of 9:29; And as he was praying, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and dazzling. It must be allowed that this is quite in compliance with both Matthew and Mark, when they have written, similarly, of his garments, with Matthew averring that his garments became white as light, while Mark embellishes that somewhat, as he states, his garments became glistering, exceeding white, so as no fuller on earth can whiten them. We can only imagine, apart from what the evangelists have said with regard to Peter’s remarks, what a magnificent impression this must have made upon each of the ‘favored three.’        

    But just what was it that took place on that high mountain, or, as Luke puts it, ‘the mountain’? Yes, what do we have here in these accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke? For some reason, unknown to ourselves, it was not according to God’s design that John include, in his gospel, an account of the transfiguration of Christ. Yet, he was, most certainly, an eyewitness of that remarkable change in appearance. There were, in point of fact, three witnesses to the glorious event; Peter, and James, and John. Or if we wish, we may include Moses and Elijah. Surely, they were two more witnesses, were they not? We may we include Another; the Father Himself. Speaking of the three apostolic witnesses; their witnessing was somewhat stifled by our Savior, was it not, when He directed them that they should tell no one of these things: Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen from the dead, He commanded them, according to Matthew, verse nine. And, Mark, conveyed the same directive, when he has written, He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, save when the Son of man should have risen again from the dead. But they did tell men, howbeit, much later; namely John and Peter. James never wrote an epistle, for Herod took his life (Acts 12:2; And he killed James, the brother of John with the sword). The epistle of James was not written by the brother of John, but by the brother of our Lord. John and Peter survived to write in epistles. John has left this testimony, in his gospel, John 1:14; And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us,(and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth. And in John’s first epistle, 1:1, we may read, That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life. We might say, here, as the high priest (Mt. 26) what further need of witnesses. Yet, we have, beyond the disciples, two more that witnessed these proceedings. We have Moses and Elijah. To what did they witness? We could not, reasonably, expect them to give witness to the transfiguration; at least not to New Testament believers. But they do witness something to such believers, what would that be? 

    There are actually, at least, a couple of things that they proclaim silently, by their very appearance on the mount with Christ. Have we ever asked ourselves, How did Peter, and James, and John recognize the persons of Moses and Elijah? Might we imagine that they googled pictures of them? Did these two Old Testament saints introduce themselves to the three? Howdy, I’m Moses; and, Hey, I am Elijah.           

This may not be unarguable, but does it not powerfully suggest, at any rate, a proof that the saints will know one another in heaven? We also derive, with warrant, that they recognized the Christ; is that not a sweet contemplation? Will we recognize Christ when we see Him as He is? Are we going to demand, with doubting Thomas, that we may put our finger into the print of the nails, and put our hand into His side? Or will we see Him, as John saw Him on the isle of Patmos? Will we fall at His feet as one dead? Will He need to tell us, Fear not; I am the first and the last? When John has written of His vision of the Christ; that ‘His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength, might we not expect that he would recall his own witness, according to the reports of his compeers on the mount of Transfiguration, when they stated that ‘His face did shine as the sun’ (Matthew), and ‘His garments became glistering’ and ‘His raiment became white and dazzling (Mark and Luke)? Perhaps an answer may be close at hand in the account that Luke has given of the two walking on the road to Emmaus, in Luke 24. We are always amazed at how they did not recognize Christ. That is, until He sat down with them to eat, taking bread, blessing and breaking, then giving to them. At that point, we are informed, their eyes were opened, and they knew Him. Something glorious happened; though we do not know exactly what.

    Perhaps, Paul was given some understanding of these things, when he was ‘caught up even to the third heaven.’ We are not given to understand much of that, but we do know that he was able to write, to the church at Corinth, some glorious things, in his first epistle to that church. Give your attention to these words:

       Behold, I tell you a mystery: We all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.—1 Corinthians 15:51-53. Is this not when we shall see Him even as He is; when we shall see Him in all His glory, yea, in greater glory that even the three favored ones on the mount of Transfiguration with Him. For we shall be with Him for ever and ever. Amen.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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